Photo: UAW members rally in Detroit on Sept. 15. Photo: Liberation News
By expanding the strike, the United Automobile Workers is sending an unmistakable message to the “Big 3” auto companies: We will not be pushed around any longer. Since the union began its “stand up” strikes last week, Stellantis and GM have been stubbornly refusing to take the workers’ demands seriously. Now, they have to deal with the consequences as thousands of additional workers walk out at 38 plants across 20 states. Ford, which has shown more willingness to make concessions, was spared from additional strikes for now.
Autoworkers are not backing down — they are bravely escalating the fight. This is exactly what it will take to defeat these greedy corporate giants. They have endless money and political connections, but the workers do the work. Not a single car can move off of the assembly line unless UAW members make it happen.
This fighting spirit has captured the attention of millions across the country, and has widespread support. The UAW strike is part of a broader surge by labor against the billionaires. Whether it’s UPS workers, actors and writers, nurses or so many others, the whole working class is standing up and grasping the fundamental fact that the only way to fight exploitation is to organize.
The struggle on the picket line and at the negotiating table happen at the same time. The UAW is demanding the end of the unequal “two-tier” wage system, pay raises on par with what executives enjoy, cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with inflation, and protection from plant closures and lay-offs resulting from the introduction of new technology.
The automakers are claiming that they don’t have enough money to meet these demands — but that’s a lie. The Big 3 made $250 billion in profit over the last decade from their operations in North America alone, and $21 billion profit in just the first six months of this year. The CEO of Ford, Jim Farley, made $21 million last year, Mary Barra at GM made $29 million and Carlos Tavares at Stellantis made $25 million.
The innovative “stand up” strike tactic that targets specific, strategic points in the supply chain allows the union to keep the company guessing while preserving the union’s strike fund that helps members make ends meet during a walkout. Recently, private Twitter messages sent by a union official discussing the power of this approach to cause “chaos” for the Big 3 were leaked to the press. The corporate media and anti-worker commentators are trying to make a scandal out of this as though company executives don’t also use frank language when they devise strategy. They seem morally outraged that our side is also fighting to win. Too bad.
The autoworkers’ struggle is so powerful that politicians who normally wouldn’t lift a finger to support labor are trying to pretend that they are friends of the union. This even includes Joe Biden, who has hosted his good friend GM CEO Mary Barra at the White House eight different times since taking office and whose niece is a GM executive. But for millions of workers, the strike evoked a sincere and profound sense of solidarity. PSL organizers across the country will join so many others going to the picket line to stand with UAW members for as long as it takes.